Monthly Archives: September 2022

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The Diverse Book Awards 2022

The Diverse Book Awards is now in its third year, showcasing the talent of marginalised voices. I’ve been lucky enough to read all of the books nominated for the children’s and YA lists to help whittle down to a long list, but yesterday the shortlist was revealed! The winner will be announced on the 20th October.


Danny Chung Does Not Do Maths by Maisie Chan, illustrated by Anh Cao (Piccadilly Press)

Hey You! by Dapo Adeola, Diane Ewan, Onyinye Iwu, Jade Orlando, Bec Glendining, Derick Brooks, Joelle Avelino, Dunni Mustapha, Kingsley Nebechi, Chanté Timothy, Nicole Miles, Camilla Sucre, Jobe Anderson, Alyissa Johnson, Chatlot Kristensen, Sharee Miller, Reggie Brown, Selom Sunu, Gladys Jose (Penguin Random House Children’s)

How I Saved the World In A Week by Polly Ho-Yen, illustrated by George Ermos (Simon & Schuster Children’s UK)

Me, My Dad and the End of the Rainbow by Benjamin Dean, illustrated by Sandhya Prabhat (Simon & Schuster Children’s UK)

The Best Diwali Ever by Sonali Shah, illustrator Chaaya Prabhat (Scholastic)

The Lightning Catcher by Claire Weze (Bloomsbury Children’s Books)

The Shark Caller by Zillah Bethell (Usborne)

The Very Merry Murder Club by Abiola Bello, Annabelle Sami, Benjamin Dean, Dominique Valente, Elle McNicoll, E.L. Norry, Maisie Chan, Roopa Farooki, Nizrana Farook, Patrice Lawrence, Joanna Williams, Serena Patel, Sharna Jackson, illustrated by Harry Woodgate. Edited by Robin Stevens and Serena Patel (Farshore)

Young Adult

Ace of Spades by Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé (Usborne)

Being Amani by Annabelle Steele (Hashtag BLAK)

Skin of The Sea by Natasha Bowen (Penguin Random House Children’s)

Splinters of Sunshine by Patrice Lawrence (Hodder Children’s Books)

The Crossing by Manjeet Mann (Penguin Random House Children’s)

The Henna Wars by Adiba Jaigirdar (Hodder Children’s Books)

What We’re Scared Of by Keren David (Scholastic)

You’re The One That I Want by Simon James Green (Scholastic)


Black Water Sister by Zen Cho (Pan Macmillan)

His Only Wife by Peace Adzo Medie (Oneworld)

Next of Kin by Kia Abdullah (HQ)

Open Water by Caleb Azumah Nelson (Viking Books)

The Day I Fell Off My Island by Yvonne Bailey-Smith (Myriad Editions)

The Island of Missing Trees by Elif Shafak (Viking Books)

The Jigsaw Man by Nadine Matheson (HQ)

This One Sky Day by Leone Ross (Faber)

For more info please email

For PR enquiries please email 

​Official blogger is Samia Aziz @readwithsamia

The Carnegies

Well the latest news took me by surprise, actually it seems to have taken a lot of people by surprise, it may just be me but the name “The Carnegies” sounds more like a soap opera or sit-com – but wait, I am getting ahead of myself here.

Let’s rewind back to February of this year when the news broke that CILIP & Yoto had entered into a partnership for Yoto to become the headline sponsor of what was then known as the CILIP Carnegie & Kate Greenaway Awards, and that they were being renamed the Yoto Carnegie & Kate Greenaway Medals.

Being an inquisitive sort and having what may kindly be described as a possessive attachment to the awards (an affliction that most ex-judges seem to have) I reached out to the press people with some questions (see below) that I had put together after reading the press release several times.


  • How did the idea of a partnership between CILIP & Yoto with regards to the Carnegie & Kate Greenaway Awards come about?
  • How will this partnership work with books that do not have audio versions? Take for example, the 2020 Carnegie winner Lark by Anthony McGowan which is published by Barrington Stoke who do not currently offer audiobooks.
  • If no official audio versions are available, is there a deal with Calibre Audio or the RNIB Talking Books to offer the audio versions they make available for print disabled readers through Yoto?
  • If the answer to the previous question is yes, how will this affect the rights of copyright holders?
     Will CKG shortlisted titles available on Yoto be sold via the official book suppliers Peters or will they be exclusively available via the Yoto store?
  • Does CILIP endorse Yoto Player as the “official” audiobook device for the Carnegie & Kate Greenaway Awards in any way?
  • With fuel, transport & food costs skyrocketing across the UK is there a concern that the price of the Yoto Players and smartcards may be a barrier to equitable access?
  • How does CILIP envision Yoto being “able to engage and include more young people in reading the best books for pleasure”?
  • How will “audio content for promotion through point of sale for retail, libraries and schools” work? Will there be excerpts of the books available to download, interviews with authors/illustrators etc?
  • What does the Yoto Player offer to CKG Shadowing that audiobooks via digital library services like Overdrive and Playaway or CD audiobooks do not?
  • How will Yoto actually work with promoting the Kate Greenaway Award? It is a Medal for an “outstanding book in terms of illustration for children and young people” being a screen free device, the Yoto Player will not be able to show the best of the works nominated for it?
  • Do audiobooks downloaded onto the Yoto Player stay on the device until they are deleted or do they have to be redownloaded periodically?
  • Will Yoto smartcards be available through Public & School Libraries?
  • If no – why not?
  • If yes will there be a limit on the number of times each item is able to be loaned?

I was put in touch with Jake Hope, the Chair of the CKG Working Party and, after several e-mails back and forth we were able to arrange a date for a skype chat to discuss the sponsorship news.

The long-term battering that Public Libraries in the UK had been experiencing brought up the question of the awards sustainability and that they (CILIP) had been looking for sponsorship for quite some time, and, working with Agile Ideas to find new opportunities of spreading the messaging of the awards and increasing their reach they had been connected with Yoto. Jake stressed during the interview that it was less a partnership and more straightforward sponsorship deal. In Yoto CILIP had found an organization that was as driven by a passion for promoting reading for pleasure that matched the passion held by those that worked in driving the CKG awards forward.

Neither CILIP nor the CKG Working Party would endorse the Yoto Player as an official device, rather they see it as a new element of accessibility, joining the options already offered by their RNIB & Calibre Audio partners.

All in all Jake felt that the positives of the (not) partnership far outweighed any potential negatives and would make the awards sustainable for years to come.

I always enjoy chatting to Jake and for years have found him to be a nigh-inexhaustible well of information and great stories about the medals and librarianship in general. However, he was not able to answer any of the Yoto specific questions I had, the biggest one (in my mind anyway) being: How will Yoto actually work with promoting the Kate Greenaway Award? It is a Medal for an “outstanding book in terms of illustration for children and young people” being a screen free device, the Yoto Player will not be able to show the best of the works nominated for it?

Sadly, when I reached out to the Yoto, their press officer declined to participate in an interview or answer the questions I had via email as (and I am quoting here): Given that we worked closely with Jake on his kind replies to your recent enquiries, we feel we’ve responded to the queries as best we can at this stage.

They did however offer to send me a Yoto Player and some cards. It is a fantastic device and very child friendly – I will be posting a review of it in due course.

Unfortunately the questions I had for Yoto still remain unanswered – except for a clarification coming over the future of the Kate Greenaway Medal tht came out of the news today, and, sad to say, I think my concern was justified.

Now back to the news that broke today of the rebranding of the Carnegie & Kate Greenaway Medals as “The Carnegies” I found the documentation very interesting, but what caught my eye was this sentence in the Q&A document: The three-year sponsorship deal with Yoto Player, was secured on the basis that the brand would be refreshed

Was deemphasizing the Kate Greenaway Medal and making it just one of “The Carnegies” the price that CILIP and the working party had to pay to close the deal with Yoto? Instead of “elevating the illustration medal” as they claim, does this not just make it harder to stand out from the medal for writing? The medal for writing has historically always had a higher profile, but the awards were in no way dependent on each other. This is just my reading of it and I welcome being corrected, but my concern that an audio device sponsoring an illustration medal did not make complete sense seems to be borne out, it is easier to overlook it as the Carnegie Medal for Illustration than it was when it was the separate Kate Greenaway Medal.

The Carnegie Medal and the Kate Greenaway Medal were always two distinct awards and now the line between has been blurred and I feel that with this rebrand something is being lost.

It also looks as if The Carnegies are being positioned to appeal more to children. Historically the awards previously known as the Carnegie & Kate Greenaway Medals were awarded to writers for an outstanding book & artists recognizing distinguished illustration in a book (both for children). In the past judges have seldom voted for the popular choice, and many librarians who ran shadowing schemes complained that the books awarded the medals were often a hard sell to young readers who often selected other titles as shadower’s choices.

My feeling looking to the future is that there will be more changes coming down the pipeline, possibly splitting the Carnegie Medal for Writing into an older & younger award. This has always been rejected by the Working Party and everyone involved with the awards, but with the scale of the current changes, it remains impossible to rule out.

The muted response to this news on social media is also very telling; in the past, updates and changes to the awards have been hotly debated and discussed, but this refresh appears to have been received with little warmth, however, only time will tell as the news trickles down to everyone with an interest in the awards.

Something else I have noticed, the website for the Carnegie & Kate Greenaway Medals as they were ended in a indicating that it was a not-for-profit organization or charity. The address now points to  a new website ending in –  denoting a commercial domain address more commonly used by businesses. The address currently remains unclaimed.

Only time will tell if these changes will lead to a watering down of the awards and if they will move in a populist choice direction, becoming one of many book awards or if they will maintain their position as “the one that all authors and illustrators want to win. Indeed throughout their history the Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medals have provided a literary standard by which other books are measured…

I may be wrong, it is possible that I have been involved with the awards for so long that I am unable to see the good things that this may bring. Do you disagree with me? Let me know via

Also if any of of past and present awards judges from YLG that participated in the consultation group are interested in chatting to me (in confidence) please drop me an e-mail

The Worlds We Leave Behind

An extraordinary story about friendship and betrayal. Of revenge and retribution but also redemption. Perfect for 11+ readers who enjoy Stranger Things.

Hex never meant for the girl to follow him and his friend Tommo into the woods. He never meant for her to fall off the rope swing and break her arm. When the finger of blame is pointed at him, Hex runs deep into the woods and his fierce sense of injustice leads him to a strange clearing in the woods – a clearing that has never been there before – where an old lady in a cottage offers him a deal. She’ll rid the world of those who wronged him and Hex can carry on his life with them all forgotten and as if nothing ever happened. But what Hex doesn’t know is someone else has been offered the same deal.

When Hex’s best friend Tommo wakes up the next day, he is in a completely different world but he only has murmurs of memories of the world before. Moments of deja vu that feel like Tommo’s lived this day before. Can Tommo put the world right again? Back to how it was? Or can he find a way to make a new world that could be better for them all?

Bloomsbury Children’s Books

The Song From Somewhere Else is a truly beautiful book, in all senses of the word, so when I saw that A.F. was writing another story set in that world also illustrated by Levi Pinfold I was a mixture of “YES PLEASE” and “how can it possibly compare…”. I needn’t have worried though. The Worlds We Leave Behind is completely different but equally enthralling. I asked A.F. Harrold a few questions:

The Worlds We Leave Behind is wonderfully philosophical. I love how you don’t talk down to young readers while also pitching it so as to not go over their heads, do you ever have ideas that you think are too complicated to include in a children’s book?

I imagine there probably are ideas ‘too complicated’ for a kids book, but, much more importantly, there are a million ideas that are perfect. And some of them might look complicated, until you begin to think about them. 

I think about the science ideas a writer like Christopher Edge builds his stories around, or Dom Conlon’s Meet Matilda Rocket Builder – perfect books with big complicated ideas behind them. Of course, those are scientific/engineering ideas, and your question began with a thought about philosophy, but I think it’s much the same, and of course, the scientific explanations throw up ethical and psychological questions. Take Chris’s The Many Worlds of Albie Bright – it shows how quantum physics, alternate universes and ethics are all intertwined, and does it with heart and love. 

It’s important to remember that we swim in a soup, where none of these subjects and ideas are separate, it’s all mixed up together and you can’t look at one ingredient without bumping into another.

Did you know before you started writing TWWLB that it would be one for Levi Pinfold to illustrate?

Yes. It took a long time for me to find out what I could write next, and the key turned and the spark ignited the moment I realised I could just take a character from our previous book together (The Song from Somewhere Else) and continue their story. And so, since it was continuing that world we’d already spent time in, I wrote it with Levi in mind. That isn’t the same as knowing your publisher will agree to let Levi illustrate it when you hand the story in, however. We were fortunate, though, that my editor, Zöe Griffiths, agreed with me that it ought to be Levi. And even more fortunately, when they approached Levi, he said yes, I think without having actually read it, because we didn’t have a final draft at that point. 

Because Levi is such an amazing and in demand illustrator, we knew we had to wait a while before The Worlds We Leave Behind would reach his desk, so Zöe and I were able to work on the story and the text for two years before it reached the final final state. After the first year (draft 3) the story was pretty much what’s in the book, and Levi was in the UK for a rare visit (he lives in Australia), and he came over to my house one afternoon, and we sat in my shed (office at the end of the garden), and I was able to sit with him and tell him the story as we drank tea and looked out at the bare trees. I enjoyed that very much, because he is so delightful a person, so engaged and so talented. He’s about ten years younger than me, but our growing up experiences, in small English towns, kicking around down the rec, were similar enough that we seem to fit together well, and he understands what I’m on about. And then, after that storytelling session, he flew back to Australia and within a couple of weeks the first lockdown was announced and our world changed forever. Zöe and I finessed the 4th draft, the final version, into shape over that summer (while also seeing me and Mini Grey’s The Book of Not Entirely Useful Advice to press – a quite different adventure), and it was only the following February (2021) that Levi got to read it (having heard it almost exactly a year before). 

It was a long process, but it gave everything time to settle into place, all the words, all the action and then, finally, all the pictures.

How soon in the draft process did you get him involved? Did you note what scenes you would like to have illustrated or leave it entirely up to him?

So, as you see from the previous answer, he wasn’t actually involved (as in drawing), until the writing was all done, but that is misleading, because he was involved from the moment I hit the first key on the keyboard and wrote the word ‘Hex’ at the top of the page. (My works in progress are usually just named for the character, titles are a pain in the bum to be thought about years down the line!) Having done The Song From Somewhere Else together I knew the style Levi draws this world in, I had an idea of how it looks because he’s already shown that to me, and so I was able to write with the thought in my head, ‘What would I like to see Levi draw?’ and so that led us into the forest, that gave us big dogs, that gave us brooding shadows and a fairytale cottage… What would you like to see Levi draw next? 

And so, when the time came for illustrating, an editor will normally give an illustrator a brief – we’d like pictures of this scene, that scene and this character, and so on (spaced out evenly through the story, one per chapter, or whatever). But with Levi (and with Emily Gravett, in the books I’ve done with them), because these are intended to be highly illustrated and because the illustrator is of such quality (and know what they’re doing and won’t be daft and draw thirty pictures for the first ten pages and nothing for the next 200!), I think we’re much more inclined to just let them go and do what they want. 

Of course, the process involves roughs and we might make suggestions at that stage, nudging things this way or that, and we get a feel for the shape of it and ask for scenes that have been missed and so on. And then you get the great joy of seeing final art come in, and then I’m able to do little edits in the text to match the things Levi’s drawn better (Hex in jeans, rather than shorts, for example), and I couldn’t be happier seeing what my little words inspired from his magnificent fingers! Gosh but he’s a master.

Interior illustration by Levi Pinfold

Do you have different routines when writing a novel vs poetry, or humour vs atmosphere? Do you favour one over the other?

When I’m working on a (first draft of a) novel, I do try to do something every day. I discovered for this one that getting up very early and writing before going for my daily walk, before looking at e-mails or the internet, was the way to go. I’d come down to my shed, through the silent sunlit morning (it was April/May 2019, and beautiful), put on Morton Feldman’s Piano, Violin, Viola, Cello and spend some time with Hex and Tommo and the others, and then I can get on with my day. And if I’ve done that, made that early start, I can usually return to the manuscript during the day and do some more. 

If, on the other hand, I have let the world step in front first (opened an e-mail, written an invoice…) then I’ll never be able to settle to writing that day. (Editing and rewriting, that’s easy to dip in and out of, but writing new stuff… that’s hard and fickle.) Poems, on the other hand, because of their snackability, they’re much easier to sit down and have a go at at any time. Part of the joy is, of course, that if it doesn’t work you can throw it away and you’ve only lost half an hour, and if it did work… brilliant, you’ve got a new thing in your hand and in your head, that didn’t exist before! There’s a lot less pressure on any individual poem to be good, and so it’s much easier to simply give it a go.

What kind of events do you most enjoy doing?

I like performing poems and being funny. Comedy for kids without the safety net.

What are you reading at the moment and who would you recommend it to?

I’ve just read Gareth P Jones’ No True Echo (2015) (which I read about in a review of TWWLB), a great mind-bending alternative world time travel looping story, for (I guess) maybe 11+ with a good grip on what’s real. Then I read Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson  (1977), which I’d seen the movie of, but had never read, and it was as moving and heart-sinking as I expected, and typically and nostalgically American – it’s not my culture, not my world, but it’s so familiar from TV and films – which I’d recommend for anyone with a heart who yearns for freedom. And I’ve just finished Wolfstongue by Sam Thompson and illustrated by Anna Tromop (2021), which is your perfectly normal boy-meets-talking-wolf-and-rescues-it-from-the-talking-foxes-and-finds-his-life’s-turned-upside-down-and-he’s-involved-in-a-mythic-battle-underground sort of story, for any kid who likes that sort of thrilling adventure.

What are you working on at the moment?

I’ve written a sort of creepy ghost story story, which I’m waiting to hear if my publisher likes enough to publish. Fingers crossed.

A.F. Harrold
Levi Pinfold

Thank you to Nina Douglas for organising a review copy and the opportunity for a Q&A with A.F. Harrold. THE WORLDS WE LEAVE BEHIND was published by Bloomsbury Children’s Books on 4 August (9781526623881/ £12.99 hardback).

Utterly Dark and the Heart of the Wild

Utterly Dark has a special connection to the sea. But it is tested more than ever before, this autumn on the island of Summertide. Accompanying her uncle as he explores mysterious Summertide, Utterly is witness to strange happenings in the woods. Deep, old magic abounds, and threatens to steal those she loves most. Utterly must face truths about what lies beneath the land, and in her own past, if she is to save anyone. And she must make a sacrifice to the sea . . . An enchanting story of nature, magic and friendship, from the renowned author of Mortal Engines.

David Fickling Books
Cover art by Paddy Donnelly

This is the sequel to the equally brilliant UTTERLY DARK AND THE FACE OF THE DEEP, from one of my very favourite authors, Philip Reeve. I was thrilled to be given the chance to ask him a few questions!

Utterly lives in a magical but realistic historical period, how much research did you do to make it historically accurate?

Not very much, because Wildsea, where most of Utterly Dark and the Face of the Deep is set, is an imaginary island. I always knew it was somewhere you’d get to on a sailing ship rather than a car ferry, so I set the story in a sort of vaguely olden-days 18th or early 19th Century period, and gradually as I wrote I worked out it was happening in 1810.

So that means that Utterly Dark and the Heart of the Wild is happening in 1811, and a lot of it happens on a different island called Summertide, which is a bit bigger and a bit more developed, so I did have to do a bit more research about how grand country houses ran in those days, etc – but of course, if I get something wrong, or want to change something, I can always say, ah, well, they did things a bit differently on Summertide…. 

And a lot of the research I do doesn’t end up in the actual book. One of the characters in Utterly Dark and the Heart of the Wild is an ex-soldier called Figgy Dan, so I spent some time working out when he did his soldiering and what battles he had fought in, but actually that’s not important for the story, you just need to know he’s been a soldier. So the research is important in helping me understand the characters and get a sense of their world, but I try not to let too much of it clutter up the finished book.

Writing for younger readers with Sarah McIntyre must be very different, has working as part of a duo changed the way you approach your solo novels?

It’s not that different, because it’s still about inventing a story and putting it into words, but it’s much more fun, because we get to share ideas and make each other giggle a lot. But I do find ideas seep across from one to the other – I think Utterly Dark and her home in the Autumn Isles has developed out of the same ideas that we used in our first book, Oliver and the Seawigs. And Sarah now gets to read all my solo books while I’m writing them, and we talk about them together, so she’s a big influence on them all. 

All of your solo series are set in such different landscapes with unique characters, do they evolve together or do you spend time worldbuilding before setting to writing story?

I tend to think the best way to do world-building is to just start writing. A lot of people think that if you’re writing about an imaginary world you start off by making a map and then work out its history and language and then set a story there, but I’m not interested in doing that. With the Utterly books I started with a name – ‘Sundown Watch’ – which I knew was the name of a house. And obviously the people who lived in it were watching for something, so I put it on a cliff top, and then I decided the cliff top was on an island, and I drew a tiny little sketch map, but there were no other names on it. Then as I wrote I gradually filled in the map, and changed it a bit to suit the story, and worked out this island had neighbouring islands, so a whole world gradually arranged itself around the characters.

What is your favourite thing or person from any of your stories?

That’s a tricky one – I’m very fond of Utterly herself, and also of Wildsea, and Sundown Watch – I’d like to live there!

Without spoilers, how far ahead have you planned in Utterly’s story? Will it be a trilogy?

I’m not very good at planning! But I think there will be at least three books about Utterly, and I think I could tell many more stories set in the Autumn Isles, either about her and her friends, or with different characters, in different periods of history.

What are you reading at the moment and who would you recommend it to?

I’m reading Roderick Random, by Tobias Smollett. I bought it because I found a second hand edition with lovely woodcut illustrations, but it turns out to be a really good read. It’s one of those rambling, boisterous, 18th Century novels where a young man goes off into the world and has all sorts of adventures. I’m not sure I’d recommend it unless that’s your sort of thing – I guess the language is quite difficult, but you get your head round it after a few pages. And it’s good research for the Utterly books in a way, because there are lots of little details about life in the Eighteenth Century – a bit before Utterly’s time, but people in Wildsea are old-fashioned so they’d probably still talk the same way. 

What are you working on at the moment?

I’m working on a third Utterly Dark book, and a new series with Sarah McIntyre, Adventuremice. And I’ve also decided to make a short film, just as a kind of hobby. It’s an Arthurian fantasy so my writing room is filling up with costumes and bits of armour and I spend all my spare time doodling storyboards and making props – it’s makes a nice change from just writing!

Philip Reeve (photo credit: Sarah Reeve)

Utterly Dark and the Heart of the Wild by Philip Reeve | David Fickling Books | 1st September | £7.99 | Paperback

Philip Reeve grew up in Brighton. He has been writing stories since he was five years old, but the first one to be published was Mortal Engines which won the Nestlé Smarties Book Prize and Blue Peter Book Award. Philip has also provided cartoons and jokes for many books, including Horrible Histories, and co-created young fiction with illustrator Sarah McIntyre. | Twitter: @philipreeve1 | Instagram: thesolitarybee | #UtterlyDark

David Fickling Books | Twitter / Instagram: @DFB_Storyhouse |